Nikka Costa, soul spitfire, shakes up Johnny D’s

Nikka Costa delivered a groove-filled set of funky tunes on Wenesday at Johnny D’s.
Matthew Welch
Nikka Costa delivered a groove-filled set of funky tunes on Wenesday at Johnny D’s.

SOMERVILLE — “Sparkly top? Get up!”

“Hey, baseball cap, why are you laughing at her? Get up!”

“Over there, who are you texting? You need me to text you? What’s your number? Get up!


Nikka Costa was grinning a wicked smile, honey-blond hair shaking down, spray-on gold lamé pants tucked into over-the-knee fawn boots, strutting to the corners of the stage Wednesday night to tell everyone nursing their drinks at tables around Johnny D’s to get up offa that thing.

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Costa has been blasting the world with her soulful, growling, groove-filled, sing-it-to-the-stars funk for years, and if she isn’t a big celebrity, well, to quote one of her songs, “Can’t Please Everybody.”

She clearly pleased a packed crowd of fans at Johnny D’s, as they sang along to the slinky bounce of her early hit “Everybody Got Their Something” and shouted on cue, coaxed by the singer’s foxy moves, for her never-mind-the-haters anthem “Keep Pushin’. ” You may know Costa’s music, but the next time she comes to town, see her live. And get up front, because she’s tiny and hot, and you don’t want to miss the dancing.

The daughter of a music producer, Costa had Frank Sinatra for a godfather, and she became a world-traveling child star. But the Godfather of Soul could have been hovering in the room Wednesday night when her band slipped into a James Brown break and she, trombonist Elizabeth Lea, and guitarist John Black started shimmying together across the floor.

Costa’s ace musicians also included keyboardist Jacob Luttrell, drummer Iajhi Hampden, and bassist Shawn Davis, whose fat, dark sound sent a ’70s rumble through the floor, the barstools, and everything else as they kicked off the set with a taste of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.”


It’s a versatile group; they could jam like P-Funk, rock out on Costa’s “Nylons in a Rip,” or pull way back to create space for the soft soul harmonies of “Loving You” or the atmospheric electronica of Costa’s suggestive “Head First.”

At one point, the singer seemed worried about her microphone. She was told there wasn’t a problem with the mike; her powerhouse voice had blown the PA.

“[Expletive] it!” a guy in the audience roared.

“I think I just did,” she said, laughing.

About that wicked smile: Think Mila Kunis.


About that voice: Think Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, coming out of a soul spitfire of a body.

About that next show? Don’t think too hard, just go.

Rebecca Ostriker can be reached at